The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

The Cost of Ignorance

With the changes taking place in the US and world economy, having a scientifically and technically literate workforce is growing in importance all the time. It seems we get a lot of studies coming out showing how low US students score in math and science which begs the question, what price do we pay for our low achievement?

Although it has been out a while, I just had someone forward to me a link to a report by McKinsey & Compay on the cost to the US economy of our failure to educate students in science and math. You can download the report as well as lots of supporting graphs and charts. They explore lots of different topics, but the big, bottom line stat is

“If the United States had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of better-performing nations such as Finland and Korea, GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. This represents 9 to 16 percent of GDP.”

Even the lower end of that estimate is a LOT of economic activity we are missing out on and drives home the importance of math and science education.

The problems with our education system are many and varied and don’t have a single silver bullet solution. Other sections of the report look at differences in achievments in different ethnic groups and students of different income levels in the US illustrating the scope of the problem.

I haven’t been able to find a lot of info on McKinsey & Company outside of their Wikipedia page…if anyone knows more about them, please feel free to post a comment.

Even if their estimates are off a factor of 10, we are still talking about hundreds of billions of dollars per year. As the old saying goes, You think education is expensive, try ignorance.


May 7, 2009 - Posted by | Education, general

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